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Health Care Reconciliation Bill Must Go Back to the House

March 25, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate stayed in session late into the night on Wednesday, voting over and over to reject dilatory Republican amendments to the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act and moving closer to a final vote on passage. The bill proposes a number of “fixes” to the new health care law, like increasing subsidies for helping people buy insurance and lowering tax penalties on those who don’t, and includes unrelated legislation to reform the student loan industry. A full summary of the reconciliation bill can be read here.

By the time the Senate adjourned at 2:50 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, they had rejected 29 Republican amendments to the bill on everything from repealing the new health care bill to undoing Washington D.C.’s gay marriage law.

You can see the vote data here for now (we’ll have it on OpenCongress soon) and you can read more about the amendments on this page the Republicans have set up.

In rejecting all the amendments, the Democrats were trying to protect the bill because if it were altered in any way it would have to go back to the House of Representatives for another vote. Any significant changes to the bill could ruin the delicate balance it passed with in the House the first time around (with just four votes to spare), and at this point, they just want to be done with health care and move on to something else.

But as it turns out, the situation the Democrats were working all night on Wednesday to avoid, having to send the bill back to the House for another vote, is unavoidable. This AP report came out just as the Senate was adjourning for the night:

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the bill making changes in President Barack Obama’s newly enacted health care overhaul will have to go back to the House for final congressional approval, something top Democrats were trying to avoid.

Spokesman Jim Manley said Republicans consulting with the Senate parliamentarian had found “two minor provisions” that violate budget rules. The two provisions, dealing with Pell grants for low-income college students, will have to be removed from the bill.

Once those provisions are deleted and the Senate passes the measure, the House will have to approve the legislation before sending it to Obama for his signature. Manley said he was confident the House would do so with no problems.

So, it goes back to the House for another vote, but if it’s just two minor provision relating to Pell Grants in the student loan part of the bill that are being altered, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] should have no problem rounding up the votes to pass it again. There aren’t too many details yet, but this sound like pretty much the mildest form of a Byrd Rule objection imaginable.

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Thursday at 9:45 a.m. ET to finish rejecting Republican amendments. A final up-or-down vote on the bill is expected at about 2 p.m. After that, back to the House!

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